Poignant letter to Lord Kitchener calculating recruits needed for WW1 offered at Bonhams

Printed Books and Maps
17 Apr 2012

A letter written in 1915 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, will be offered by Bonhams in the Printed Books and Maps sale taking place in Oxford on the 17th April and is estimated to sell for £200 - 400.

The letter from Reginald McKenna, Chancellor of the Exchequer, calculates the number of recruits that will be needed to withstand the attrition rate on the Western Front. He explains the unsettling ratio of killing to recruitment on the Western Front during the Great War and how many millions of men it is necessary to recruit in order to make up for the 64 per cent "irrecoverable wastage" on the Western Front, stating:

"The calculation which I made two or three weeks ago was as follows: Total casualties (i.e. casualties of all kinds) take place at the rate of 1 in 15 per month of all the men in France. Among casualties approximately 1/5th are killed, 1/5th are missing, and 3/5ths are wounded. Of the wounded 2/5ths do not return to the Army. The irrecoverable wastage is therefore 1/5+1/5+2/5 of 3/5 = 16/25 or 64 per cent.

The figures I should be glad to have would be: (1) The rate of recruiting necessary to supply wastage and to furnish a total of 2,600,000 men at home and abroad in April (2) The rate of recruiting necessary to maintain 1,400,000 men in the field until the end of December 1916 making due allowance for wastage."


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